Corporations Can’t Oppress Us without the State’s Help

In a piece recently published at The American Conservative entitled ‘Americans, We Aren’t So Tough, and It Shows’ I discussed the way in which a confluence of factors such as the decay of the intermediary institutions of civil society and economic insecurity leads to individuals being vulnerable and anxious. This vulnerability, I argued, leads to political tribes seeking to control the power of the state in order to prevent its massive power from being used against them, with the end result being increasing civil strife over the institutions of political power. In order to try and reduce such conflict, I argued that power should be disbursed throughout society, rather than concentrated with the state, in part by the revitalization of the institutions of civil society.
While many online commentators agreed with the detrimental effects of the decline of civil society, a somewhat unexpected vein of criticism emerged, arguing that reducing the power of the government will only leave individuals even more vulnerable and at the mercy of powerful mega-corporations than ever before. Given the large role that economic insecurity plays in the anxiety that leads many people to look to political institutions for protection, it makes sense that the power of large corporations would be concerning. However, this fear is based on an incorrect conflation of political and economic power that misunderstands the way in which the state distorts the dispersion of market power.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on November 27, 2017.